Could You Start A Small Business Using 3D Printing?

Editor’s Note: Our digital designers keep on exploring opportunities of the ground-breaking 3D printing technology and its impact on our future life and business. This is another 3D printing article in our blog. This time it is about starting your own 3D printing business.

It’s the 3D printing era. Yes, it’s happening. Since the opening of Shapeways - the biggest consumer 3D production start-up - in 2007, the 3D printing scene has gone crazy and mainstream. New businesses keep on popping up in the USA and Hewlett-Packard has recently closed a reseller deal for commercial 3D printing systems. So good news - starting a 3D printing business is easier than ever!

What Is It All About Exactly?

Today anyone can design their own products. They can either print them at home or have them made by a 3D printing service company and sell them online. Virtually anyone can create custom products of countless materials (plastic, glass, metal, and many others) and make a profit out of it.

3d printer
Image by: Hahatango

Would you like to set up your own small 3D printing enterprise? Just follow these steps and you will be in business quickly and efficiently.

1. Buy The Hardware

Pretty obvious, isn’t it? The first thing you need is… a printer. So have a look around and choose the model that is right for your pockets and aims. The consumer ones are sold for just over $1,000, so that could be a good start for a small business. If you are good at IT you could even think of building your own.

2. Decide On The Software

Thanks to the popularity of 3D printing, the software is getting cheaper and easier to use. There is some great free or open source software, such as Google’s SketchUp, OpenSCAD, Blender, and Wings3F, out there. So you could start practicing your design skills for free and see how things go. If you manage to create something good, you could think of investing a little more for more advanced software.

3. Do Some Research

Research the market and find out what products would be more profitable to produce and sell. Is it better to invest in high demand goods, or to go for a specific niche? Is it better to keep the design simple or to try out something very original? What materials should you use? How much should you sell them for?

4. Buy The Materials

Once you’ve answered all those boring but very important questions, you should invest your money in the materials you’ve decided to use. Here you’ll need some common sense and a good idea of risk management. If you are struggling, you could ask an advisor or go on the numerous forums online where people speak about the topic.

5. Practice And Test

Once you’ve decided what you’d like to produce and how: practice it. Try different designs and materials to test what’s the best price-quality balance. This could take a while, but it’s better to spend time on it and see what works best for you. You’ll need to improve your designer and crafting skills.

6. Produce And… Sell!

So your products have been tested and you think they are great. Now all you need to do is produce more and start your trading! The easiest option would be selling online, but you can also try to sell locally. Go and meet some retailers who own a small shop in your area and see if your products are of potential interest. Build relationships with them and you never know! You might avoid the shipping expenses.

So these were the six steps to start a small 3D printing business. It’s not that complicated – you just need to make sure that everything you do is well researched, practice quite a lot, and choose your assets well.

Have you got any experience in 3D printing? Do you have any more suggestions on how to start a business around it? I’d be happy to hear your thoughts!

 

Elena Manighetti is a prolific blogger. Previously a journalist for news, lifestyle, and entertainment at Giornale di Bergamo, she writes about PR, lifestyle, and technology. She blogs for Cartridge Shop.

 

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